It's 5 PM on a Saturday and I'm sitting at my desk. Outside, the sun is shining. Birds are singing. Happy hipsters are cycling in the street. It's summer. And yet here I am, in pajama pants, staring at a blank screen, rummaging through a paper bag full of chocolate-covered marshmallows and neon gummy skulls (the candy store ominously labels them "Deadly Sours”). I've got work due in less than 48 hours and a to-do list a dozen items long. In short, I'm a bundle of nerves. Stress happens. To everyone. And it has its upsides (I'm convinced, for example, that I work more efficiently under pressure). But the effects of stress aren't always pretty (case in point: pajama pants and fingers stained with melted chocolate). For the most part, stress is uncomfortable. It's inevitable. It's... stressful. But as I've gotten older, I've learned that it doesn't have to mean my day is ruined. Having a mile-long to-do list or an encroaching deadline doesn't have to be debilitating. A blank screen doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to run and hide. Instead, it can turn into a date with a bag of chocolate-covered marshmallows.
If I'm out of marshmallows, I have a few other stress-reducing prescriptions (I like to think of them as organic alternatives to Xanax) to help me live with the tight-chested, stomach-turning feeling that makes freelancing such a glamorous occupation. For example:
-Walking. Taking a walk through my neighborhood never fails to calm me down. It reminds me that there's a world that extends beyond my own limited thought bubble. Life goes on, despite my deadlines - that's a comforting thought.
-Talking. Calling a friend or stepping out for a cup of coffee works wonders. For all of the pep talks I try to give myself, it often takes someone else telling me I can do it to really make things better. (For the record, I'm trying to get better at believing my own encouraging words. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm working on it.)
-Just doing. A blank screen is intimidating. To-do lists are, too. Where to start? What to write? I'm sometimes guilty of spending hours asking these questions, only to realize that an entire day has passed me by and I've gotten nothing done. So often, I'll force myself to just start somewhere - anywhere. I'll write whatever comes to mind - who cares if it's bad? I can edit later. At least there's something there. With a to do list, I'll pick one thing - anything - and get it done without distraction. More often than not, accomplishing that one thing is so satisfying, I'm excited to tackle the rest.
These are just a few examples of what works for me. What are some things you do to deal with stress? What works and what doesn't?